I was nearing the front of the line at IKEA in lovely downtown Burbank California. It felt a lot like being at Disneyland, except for two things; 1) it wasn’t Disneyland, and 2) I was standing in a long snaking (and cleverly hidden) line in the baking hot southern California sun to spend my money at a store, not to go on a ride.
I’m not sure I’m liking the new normal. But you know what? It doesn’t matter if I like it or not, because here it is. Sure, I would love to go back six months and tell myself how different things were going to be today. But I’m reasonably certain that I would not believe me. Who would?
The last time I was in L.A. was on the eve of the original SIP. I remembered thinking then, that we should watch carefully what happens in other areas, so that we in in NorCal wouldn’t repeat their mistakes. Hindsight really is 20/20.
As we marched along like a slowly arching inchworm, IKEA employees would occasionally and politely remind line standers that masks were required and were always required to be worn properly. It’s no longer optional, it is now mandatory.
“I’m sorry ma’am,” said the IKEA employee. “Your mask must cover your nose.”
“Well, we’re going to go somewhere else then,” said the lady in a tone of indignation that was so six months ago.
“That’s your right,” said the front door monitor.
“But Momma, there is nowhere else to go,” said the lady’s little girl.
And there you had it, truth out of the mouths of babes.
No now means no, not maybe, or whatever. And it certainly doesn’t mean we’re sorry and here’s a gift certificate for your trouble. It’s as true in southern California as it is in northern California. Voluntary rules never work, just ask anybody who has ever worked in customer service.
Every week we hear of another hospitality industry casualty. Where it will end nobody knows for sure. Opening safely should have been the priority. We tried to partially reopen, and we have all seen what happened: Covid cases surged, several businesses closed for quarantine, and some of them might not reopen again, ever.
If only people had worn their masks, sanitized their hands and practiced social distancing diligently. But they didn’t. In fact, some people reveled in not doing so. And so now here we are. Back to limited outdoor seating. Way to go.
Every time I pass by another Covid casualty, be it a shuttered bar or a closed restaurant, I think of all those people online screaming about their rights and their freedoms, and how intolerable wearing a mask in public and social distancing are. Those chairs stacked in the lobby and tables wedged in front doors are going to stay there until those people really start to get it. Because it only takes one or two of them to undo everyone else’s hard work.
The restaraunt business certainly did their best to follow the rules, but it wasn’t us that was the problem. It was that tiny group of people who just will not follow the rules, any rules. It might have been obliquely funny months ago when it was service dogs, or biking on walking paths, or even going in through the out door at the grocery store. But it’s not funny anymore. Not even a little bit. Full on restaurant reopening has now been taken off the menu indefinitely at this point. And that means more and more restaurants will have to close. And more and more restaurant employees will lose their jobs.
“I don’t even know anyone who has tested positive,” I’ve heard non-mask wearers say repeatedly. And that was true for me too until it wasn’t. Then suddenly I knew a dozen people who had tested positive and several who were in the hospital. Sure, I had been washing my hands and social distancing and wearing a mask. But my habits didn’t really matter at that point. What mattered were the habits of those few people who didn’t. Ten days of self-quarantine waiting for a test result can really sober one up.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-Really want to support your local businesses? Then, follow the rules. It’s as simple as that.
-In a pandemic, one bad apple doesn’t just spoil the bunch, it might destroy the entire orchard.
-“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing. After they’ve tried everything else,” once opined Winston Churchill.
-Freedom is about options, run out of options and you run out of freedom.
-Let’s not blow our second chance, this time let’s do it right.